GLENDALE, ARIZ.—After a long season of bickering amongst fans, Kansas State (11-1) and the University of Oregon (11-1) are finally playing each other. And Willamette Week is here in the press box of the University of Phoenix stadium in Glendale, Ariz. to bring you all the action.
The Wildcats bought their way out of a regular season meeting between these two programs. The two were neck and neck throughout the season, competing for the right to play Alabama in the championship game. The Ducks were even kind enough to lose to a 20-point underdog after Kansas State took itself out of contention with a shameful shameful performance Baylor. This matchup was destined to happen.
Indeed, both of these programs have been around for about the same, rising to prominence over the last 20 years. Oregon did so through coaching continuity and ingenious marketing. Kansas State did so through coaching continuity, junior college transfers and good, old-fashioned cowardly non-conference scheduling.
Allow me to be frank at the commencement: I have nothing against Kansas State University. It has a beautiful campus in the adorably nicknamed Little Apple—Manhattan, Kansas is kinda like Corvallis with an army base. Running the 10K Brew 2 Shoe race was one of the highlights to my summer of ’11. It’s hard to imagine a more refreshing feeling than cracking open a can of Tallgrass beer after stumbling past that finish line, nipples bloodied.
But interacting with Kansas State fans has soured me on the program. I’ve dealt with K-State fans who tout the most generic mascot as somehow superior to the Ducks. I’ve gotten into arguments with others over exactly what happened to the home-and-home series between the two programs (Hint: It’s the team who paid the buyout). And quite frankly, there isn’t much to distinguish them from other fanbases outside of their purple wardrobe.
Well, except for the silly EMAW (Every Man A Wildcat) chant. By my count there was one Wildcat on my flight to Phoenix. He didn’t have much to say outside of expecting a 52-17 Oregon victory. If that’s how Wildcats think, then we just might all be Wildcats today.
Colin Klein's 3rd down pass sails high as he forgets that his double-covered receiver is not 20 feet tall. Oregon defense then stuffs Klein on the obvious designed QB-run. Oregon offense takes the field for the first time around its 40-yard line.
... and we have our first extremely long pause of the game. If there is one thing that neurotic Ducks fans hypothesized to have hurt the Ducks in prior BCS games it has been the larger number of media timeouts throwing off the team's timing.
Media timeouts or, you know, outstanding plays by the defense and sloppy play by the offense. Third & a mile for the Oregon offense.
Believe or not, Oregon punted in the first quarter. One of the rarest occurrences this side of a solar eclipse.
Clay bludgeons Kansas State's Heisman also-ran on a 3rd & long blitz. Oregon's defense looks very well-prepared to continue their streak of beating up purple clad foes.
Football will be right back after this
BREAKING: De'Anthony Thomas is really fast.
3:46 Oregon 15, Kansas State 0
BREAKING: De'Anthony Thomas is also really freaking good. Not a soul on Kansas State's entire roster can hang with him. Black Mamba is faster, quicker, and, on that last play, strong enough to run through the Wildcats' arm tackles.
Not since West Virginia dropped 70 points on Clemson last year has a BCS game looked like such a mismatch.
3:11 Impressive open field tackle by Alonso to stop Klein on that scramble and force a 3rd & long.
End of the First Quarter: Oregon 15, Kansas State 0
There is a clear athletic advantage so far in this game with De'Anthony Thomas looking just as unspeakably good as he was in the Rose Bowl last year. But give the Wildcats credit. They're gutting it out and knocking on the door of the end zone to start the second quarter.
On an unrelated note, amazing what you can find searching for #EMAW, is it not?
Dion Jordan tosses his hand towel on the ground after smiting Klein on a 1st & goal run.
13:26 Kansas State 7, Oregon 15
After being stopped by stellar Oregon defense on the first two downs, Optimus Klein scrambles into the end zone on 3rd down to end the Ducks' shutout. As if to emphasize the pain this caused me, head referee Ron Cherry blows his whistle with his microphone still on.
Brave, brave Coach Snyder is no longer sending kickoffs anywhere in the same area code as De'Anthony Thomas.
Barner lost track of the ball on that 3rd and long pass. The non-DAT offensive players just seem a little out of it to start this game. Part of this is due to Kansas State fielding the second-best defense the Ducks have faced all year. The other part is a general offensive malaise—penalties, off passes, and losing the ball in the field lights. Oregon gunner shrugs off a block in the back to make an outstanding tackle on the ensuing punt.
Kansas State's offense has found a groove through scrambles and crossing patterns.
Former Duck Chris Harper is having himself a game today. Impressive run after the catch the get the ball inside the Oregon 5.
5:21 Kansas State 10, Oregon 15
Oregon defense stiffens in the red zone to force the Wildcats to attempt a field goal. Oregon D-line is dominating the line of scrimmage. Game is getting a little chippy right now. After Oregon quickly built up a 15-point lead, Kansas State has been dominating this game.
Brave, brave, brave Coach Snyder has his team kick away from DAT again. Doesn't matter as Lowe returns the kickoff to midfield with some nifty moves of his own.
This is the loudest K-State fans have been when not whining for a call.
Chip Kelly calls the fake punt, surprising exactly no one. 'Twas a valiant effort but the Oregon offense wasted some amazing field position on a very short drive.
Klein's last pass actually landed perfectly in the little kickers net on the sidelines. Well played.
Oregon's defense continues to play likes its never seen a drag route before.
Trying to draw the Oregon defense offsides, Kansas State's left tackle flinches at Optimus Klein loud barking. K-State then misses the field goal. I must say, it is a hell of a thing to see someone else miss a big field goal in one of these games.
0:14 Oregon 22, Kansas State 10
Well, that was fast. Mariota completes too long passes to Bane Lyerla down the middle before hitting a wide open Barner along the sideline while scrambling. Momentum is a fickle. The Wildcats had it for 14 minutes of that quarter. In less than a minute, the Ducks have snatched it back.
Halftime: Oregon 22, Kansas State 10
Oregon picks off the hail mary pass to end the half on a wave of momentum. The first half featured a few plays of incredible athleticism, poise and skill sandwiched in-between long, dull series of sloppy play and unforced errors. Ineligible receivers downfield, delay of game penalties, false starts, these are not the hallmarks of two good teams. As a lifelong Duck, I've come to expect the Ducks to go through periods where they seem to forget how to play football. It's not what one would expect from a Bill Snyder coached team.
The Ducks have to work out a few kinks at halftime. Not really sure what to tell Kansas State... find someone who can defend De'Anthony Thomas?
In other news, we'll find out if Colin Klein wants to be a part of something special in the second half:
Start of the Third Quarter
Chili dog now eating.
The Oregon defense opens up the second half with an impressive stop. The Wildcats' punter takes out the entire team's frustrations on the hapless ball, nearly sending the football through the closed roof.
11:01 Oregon 25, Kansas State 10
The much maligned Alejandro Maldonado makes the 33-yard field goal after a once-surgical offesnive drive by Oregon sputters with three consecutive incomplete passes. A tremendous make by a kicker who has suffered the brunt of criticism for the Ducks not making in the title game and ending their three-year run as Pac-10/12 champions. A tip of the panama hat to the athlete.
The Oregon kickoff coverage team's streak of almost giving up a touchdown every return continues unabated.
Kiko Alonso falls down in coverage but the Kansas State tight end charitably drops the pass. An unexpected level of derp between two 11-1 teams. Optimus Klein gets nailed on the next two plays. This game is about to get out of hand, folks.
8:03 Oregon 32, Kansas State 10
Mariota keeps the ball and glides into the end zone after another strong drive by the Oregon offense. As if incapable of displaying competency on consecutive plays, the kicking game has its extra point blocked. Which brings into play an exciting well-known rule to the excited squeals of the Daily Emerald reporter next to me. Kansas State recovered the block and went back into the end zone for a one-point safety. Real college football fans loved this rule before it was cool.
(Fun fact: former Duck Chris Harper was the K-State player tackled in the end zone, earning the extra point for Oregon. Once a Duck, always a Duck, even unintentionally)
As reporters throughout the press box look up this obscure rule, it appears the blog has made a conversion:
Kansas State tallies its first positive play of the half with a sack of Marcus Mariota on 4th down. But now it's time for the K-State offense to try again.
End of the Third Quarter: Oregon 32, Kansas State 10
The gladiators of Oregon thoroughly dominated the third quarter of play. Can Kansas State muster some semblance of a comeback or will they be resigned to the 10-minute cooling off period before they're allowed to interact with the press?
The answer is no. [And you can trust him on this one, folks, as he's never wrong-Ed.]
11:35 Kansas State 17, Oregon 32
Kansas State's running back scampers into the end zone after an impressive drive from Klein and Co. These guys just refuse to let my 35-10 pre-game prediction to come true.
With the Duck offense sputtering once more, the defense tightens up to stop the Wildcats. The sportswriter in front of me jokes that Kansas State has stopped trying to win after that punt. This has been the most impressive defensive performance by the Oregon defense since the national title game against Auburn two years ago.
The Oregon offense is finally milking the clock to the unceasing cheer of the Oregon faithful. Kansas State fans are beginning to exit the stadium. This game is over.
Kansas State finally tries to stop the clock with the Ducks at the Wildcats' 6 yard line. The sportswriter may not have been far off.
2:27 Oregon 35, Kansas State 17
Tack on another field for Maldonado, who is ending his season in style.
There you have it, folks: History has been made. No Oregon defense has ever intercepted as many passes as the 2012 Ducks. Tremendous performance by that unit today.
Final Score: Oregon 35, Kansas State 17
For the second-consecutive season, the Oregon program ends on a note of triumph. They were the superior team by a wide margin. As a 3rd generation Duck, it is still hard what Chip Kelly and company have been able to do with this program. Brooks and Bellotti deserve an incredible amount of credit for the heights they lifted the program to but no one could have envisioned this. The 2012 Oregon Ducks should go down as one of the most dominant teams in the history of college football, even without winning the national title. Twelve wins by double-digit margins. Not many teams can boast even half that in a season.
The crowd is rotating in-between "We want Chip!" and "Four more years!" If not for the no cheering in the press box rule, I'd be joining in. But if this is Chip's final game coaching the Oregon Ducks it is a hell of a way to ride off into the sunset. Much like how Stanford fans feel about Harbaugh, we're happy for the years he has given us and will understand if he moves up to the pros. The simple truth is that he might just be too good for this level.